Unesco: 40 Years of Action

By M'Bow, Amadou-Mahtar | UNESCO Courier, October 1986 | Go to article overview

Unesco: 40 Years of Action


M'Bow, Amadou-Mahtar, UNESCO Courier


Unesco: 40 years of action

FORTY years ago, just a few weeks after the end of the Second World War, the Conference of the Allied Ministers of Education, which has to adopt the Constitution of Unesco, met in London.

To the terrible toll of six years of desolation and death that the world had just experienced was not added the threat foreshadowed by the explosion of the two atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the ruins of the annihilated cities, in the grief present everywhere, and confronted by the prospect of new forms of mass destruction, the international community became aware of the collective responsibilities which it would have to shoulder in order to preserve the future of the species.

Within the framework of the United Nations system that had just been set up, Unesco was given the task of advancing international peace and the common welfare of mankind through "the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world"--in other words, international intellectual co-operation.

In order to help to bring about "a condition in which the incentives to war are neutralized by social, spiritual and economic advances...", Unesco engaged in vigorous action in many different fields--the development of great standard-setting concepts; the circulation of knowledge, ideas and information; and operational activities to help the poorest countries. This activity aimed among other things to foster mutual knowledge and understanding among nations; to faciliate by means of appropriate methods of co-operation the access of all peoples to what each of them had already produced and to what each was producing in all fields of thought, artistic creativity and scientific and technical discovery and experiment; to bring about conditions under which everyone should have equal opportunities of access to education; and to allow the free exchange of ideas and information.

Overe the years, Unesco has constantly broadened the basis of its representativity. Its action in this area has been constantly gaining in scope and complexity--especially with the admission of nearly 100 countries which, during the late 1950s and 1960s, acceded to national sovereignty.

These countries brought their historical and cultural experience into the Organization, they expressed their particular sensitivities; they evoked their own concerns. The developing countries, in particular, raised questions related to the difficult, sometimes even alarming, circumstances that they were facing, to the manifold challenges confronting them and to the various paths that they were exploring in order to ensure a development that was authentic.

Unesco thus began to think about the reality of an increasingly interdependent world in which societies are in contact with each other to a greater or lesser degree and are part of a world system of reciprocal exchanges and relations. …

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